Tartan trio Richie Ramsay, Craig Howie and Liam Johnston were among a posse of players to withdraw from the Joburg Open today due to the UK placing six southern African countries back on its red list of travel restrictions.
The Scots joined England, Irish and Welsh players in pulling out of the opening event on the rebranded DP World Tour in order to try and get home after a surge in cases of a heavily-mutated Covod-19 variant caused alarm among global health officials.
Travellers returning from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini will be forced to quarantine for 10 days at a government facility from midday today while direct flights from the six countries will be banned from midday today until hotel quarantine is up and running from 4am on Sunday.
In a joint-statement, the DP World Tour and Sunshine Tour announced that the Joburg Open, which has three spots in the 150th Open at St Andrews up for grabs, will continue as planned.
However, next week’s South African Open at Sun City will now be solely a Sunshine Tour event while the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek the following week has been cancelled due to the “adverse effect” the travel restrictions will have on the field.
“We only found out about it this morning and it’s interesting to say the least,” Drysdale, speaking during a weather delay in the second round at Randpark, told The Scotsman. “But, if you are travelling around the world as we do, that’s the risk you are taking at the moment.
“Most of the British players have all decided to head home and that’s totally understandable if you’ve got a wife and kids at home.
“But Vicky (his wife and caddie) and I have taken the decision to stay as we had always planned to be here in South Africa for Christmas.”
Ramsay, Drysdale, Howie and Johnston were all on the entry list for the SA Open along with David Law, Connor Syme and Scott Jamieson.
Bob MacIntyre, meanwhile, had revealed this week that he had been planning to travel to Leopard Creek for the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
“I have heard rumours that the EU are about to jump on the same boat as the UK,” added Drysdale.
“There wasn’t a seat to be had by the time we found out what had happened. A lot of the guys were panicking, but we thought, ‘what’s the point?’. We are staying with a mate in Joburg and our plan is to still stay until Christmas then return home.
“Hopefully this variant is not as bad as they are fearing, it’s all up in the air as it’s not even been 24 hours since we heard about this.
“We are planning to come home after Christmas before heading to the UAE in January, but it might be that we look at something different now as I’d rather be free to walk around Dubai than stuck in a quarantine hotel in the UK for 10 days.”
There have been 77 of the heavily-mutated variant in the Gauteng province of South Africa. In addition, there are four cases in Botswana and one in Hong Kong, which has been traced back to travel from South Africa.
Drysdale only managed to play 15 holes in his second round following the rain delay and faces an early return on Saturday morning to finish it off.
The 46-year-old, who had opened with a par-71, raced to the turn in 32, having followed a dropped shot at the par-4 second with four birdies in the next seven holes.
He then had three bogeys in a row to start the back nine on the Firethorn Course before getting one of those shots back with a 4 at the 14th.
The Cockburnspath man sits in tie for 28th on one-under, 11 shots behind clubhouse leader Thriston Lawrence after the South African carded a second successive 65.
Another home player, Zander Lombard, lies second on eight-under, one ahead of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who joined Drysdale in deciding to stay on rather than head home.